Using Gestures of the Hands and Head in Education
the teacher uses gestures of the head and hands a lot while he is lecturing his students. it is natural to do so for any speaker, no matter what the subject is. is there a way to employ such gestures in favor of education? the answer is yes. if you ask how, then please read the following lines:
the student’s eyes follow the movement and stillness of the teacher. this is why he gets effected by the emotions the teacher shows. he is influenced by the movement of the hands and head. the teacher can make use of these movements and gestures in a number of things such as:
first: clarifying and confirming the speech. this can be seen in the hadith narrated by jabir (ra)1 about hajjatul-wida (the farewell pilgrimage) of the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him):
jabir (ra) said: "we did not have any other intention but that of hajj only, being unaware of the 'umrah, but when we came with him to the house (of allah), he touched the black stone (hajar al aswad) and made seven circuits, running three of them and walking four. then going to the station of ibrahim, he recited: "and adopt the station of ibrahim as a place of prayer.'' (al baqarah: 125) he stood at a place where the station (of ibrahim) was between him and the house. there he prayed two rak'ahs reciting surah al-lkhlas, and surah al-kafirun. he then returned to the black stone (hajar al aslwad) and kissed it. then he went out of the gate to safa, and as he approached it he recited: "al-safa and al-marwah are among the signs appointed by allah." (al baqarah: 15) he added: i begin with what allah began. he first mounted safa until he saw the house, and facing qiblah he declared the oneness of allah (swt)2 and glorified him and said: la ilaha illa allah wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahul mulk wa lahul hamd, wa huwa 'ala kulli sha'in qadeer, la ilaha illallahu wahdahu sadaqa wa'dahu, wa nasara 'abdahu, wa hazamal ahzaba wahdah (there is no god but allah, one, he has no partner. his is the sovereignty, to him praise is due, and he is powerful over everything. there is no god but allah alone, who fulfilled his promise, helped his servant and routed the confederates alone").
he said these words three times making supplications in between. he then descended and walked towards marwah, and when his feet touched the bottom of the valley, he ran; and when he began to ascend, he walked till he reached marwah. there he did as he had done at safa.
"when it was his last round of marwah he said: 'if i had known beforehand what i have come to know afterwards, i would not have brought sacrificial animals and would have offered it as an 'umrah. so, he among you who has not the sacrificial animals with him should put off ihram and treat it as an 'umrah. suraqa ibn malik ibn ju'tham got up and said, 'messenger of allah, does it apply to the present year, or does it apply forever? thereupon the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) intertwined the fingers (of one hand) into another and said twice: 'the 'umrah has become incorporated in the hajj,' (adding): 'no, but forever and ever.' [sahih muslim]
now back to our point, which is using gestures to ascertain the teacher’s point. reading through the hadith, when suraqa ibn malik ibn ju'tham asked the prophet (pbuh), he intertwined the fingers of one hand into another and then he replied to confirm that this ruling is forever. using this gesture also shows the correlation between hajj and 'umrah.
2- narrated abu hurairah (ra): allah’s apostle (peace be upon him) talked about friday and said: 'there is an hour on friday and if a muslim gets it while offering salat (prayer) and asks something from allah (swt), then allah (swt) will definitely meet his demand.' and he, the prophet peace be upon him, pointed out the shortness of that particular time with his hands. [sahih al-bukhari and muslim] reading the haidth, it is clear that his hand gesture added a new meaning which the shortness of this hour compared to the great reward. this is a blessing and bounty from almighty allah. al-zain ibn al-munir said: “the shortness gesture is to encourage muslims to witness this hour, for its shortness and abundance of its reward.”
second: attracting the attention and ascertaining the meanings in the mind.
1- in the previous hadith narrated by jabir ibn abdullah (ra), the prophet (peace be upon him) addressed the people in namirah in the day of arfah. he told them great and important teachings and issues in his sermon during the farewell pilgrimage. when he finished, he said to them: ‘and you would be asked by allah about me so what would you say?’ the companions replied, with one voice, ‘we testify that you have conveyed the message and fulfilled your mission.’ the prophet (peace be upon him) then raised his forefinger towards the sky and said thrice, ‘o allah, be witness.’ [sahih muslim] the prophet (pbuh) raised his finger to the sky, then he pointed at them, this is to attract the attention of muslims to a great matter. it is to teach them the seriousness and immense value of testimony.
2- 'abu'l-'aliyat al-bara reported: ibn ziyad delayed the prayer. 'abdullah ibn samit came to me and i placed a chair for him and he sat on it and i made a mention of what ibn ziyad had done. he bit his lips (as a sign of extreme anger and annoyance) and struck at my thigh and said: i asked abu dharr as you have asked me, and he struck my thigh just as i have struck your thigh, and said: i asked the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) as you have asked me and he struck my thigh just as i have struck your thigh, and he (the prophet) said: ‘observe prayer at its prescribed time, and if you observe prayer along with them, do so, and do not say, i did pray and so i shall not pray.’ [muslim] in the explanation of sahih muslim, it is mentioned that saying “he struck my thigh” to raise the attention and provoke others to listen.
third: giving the meaning in short direct words. this can be seen in the hadith narrated by ibn abbas:
the prophet (peace be upon him) said, "i have been ordered to prostrate on seven bodily parts: the forehead and he pointed to his nose, the hands, the knees and the toes of both feet." [al-bukhari and muslim] can’t you see my dear brothers and sisters how he (pbuh) said “i have been ordered to prostrate on seven bodily parts” then he said the forehead and then he pointed to his nose, because it shows that the nose is attributed to the forehead. it is like they are both one part. it is also an excellent abbreviation, because the prophet (peace be upon him) pointed to the nose without mentioning it. if he didn’t point to the nose, he would have mentioned it in the hadith saying ‘the forehead and the nose’. but, when he pointed at it, he passed on mentioning them in words and allah knows best.
2- narrated abu huraira (ra) that the prophet (peace be upon him) said, "(religious) knowledge will be taken away, ignorance (in religion) and afflictions will appear; and “harj” will increase." it was asked, "what is “harj”, o allah's apostle?" he replied by beckoning with his hand indicating "killing." [sahih al-bukhari]
1) employing gestures of the hands and the head in education.
2) gestures help the teacher shorten and abbreviate the meaning, by making it concise and to the point. it also helps ascertain the speech and establish some important matters or attract the attention of listeners. it enables the teacher to express some meanings which are hard to explain in words.
3) there are gestures that give many meanings, we are familiar with them by habit like the sign of asking to stay silent, asking to come or leave and the sign of denial etc.
4) yet, we have to know that exaggeration in using the hands is annoying to students, and vice versa, if the teacher does not use his hands to explain his point, he might need additional methods to clarify some points. so, gestures should be used in a balanced way, without exaggeration or diminish.
(1) ra: radya allah anhu/anha [may allah be pleased with him/her]
(2) swt = suhanahu wa ta'ala [glorified and exalted be he]